Press not to blame for Big Sam’s downfall

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The phrase ‘never believe what you read in the ‘papers’ is possibly one of the most well used in the English language and is the saying guaranteed to make me see red.

In my opinion it is the catchphrase of buffoons.

The reason it gets my goat so much is that the suggestion that everything printed in newspapers is a load of baloney is the biggest red herring. The reason this phrase is embedded in lexicon of the Jeremy Kyle brigade is that the myth behind it – the one that suggests all reporters rummage through bins – has been perpetuated by those who have the most to lose by being exposed by the press. Silver-tongued politicians and cosseted sports stars often shoot the messenger when they are caught deep in trouble and, sadly, the mud has stuck. The grubby case of Sam Allardyce illustrates this because after he was forced to leave his dream job as England football manager, much of the noise that followed was from those who felt he had been set up by the ‘poisonous press’.

The suggestion that he was an innocent victim of a press sting misses the point because, as the man with the highest profile job in British sport, he was fair game, even more so when you recall that he featured in a Panorama investigation about bung-taking in football a decade ago. He has always denied any wrongdoing but Allardyce and his ‘people’ should have realised that journalists would put his moral fibre to the test once he became national coach.

That people spent much of last week castigating the news team who are trawling the sewer that is modern football rather than turning all of their ire on the man for whom £3m a year wasn’t enough didn’t surprise me. The newspaper industry is fighting its biggest battle – against falling circulations and the fact printed news is an alien concept to many under 30. People often tell me they don’t read newspapers, missing the point that the news agenda is still largely fed by what used to be known as Fleet Street and the regional press. While I am well aware of its many shortcomings, a free press is something worth cherishing. The next time you finish a newspaper, ask yourself what you would do if it didn’t exist? Where would you get your information from? Newspapers are the reason figures of influence continue to look over their shoulders.